Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Twenty years on – gratitude and hope

Five years ago today, I wrote a blog-post to mark the fifteenth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I was still pretty new to blogging and this seemed to me a good opportunity to capture some of the memories of that eventful and historic time and tell a story which deserves to be remembered. 

This year the Church in Wales decided to mark the twentieth anniversary of these first ordinations with simultaneous services in all six Welsh cathedrals. We live at the very southern tip of Bangor Diocese, so on Saturday morning DH and I set off bright and early to drive the 85 miles to our cathedral. Normally we would have revelled in the glorious scenery through which we were travelling, but sadly that morning it was almost completely shrouded in thick Welsh mist. Nevertheless we arrived in good time and at 11am the service began.

Of the original nine ordained in Bangor all those years ago, only I and three others were able to be there. One had died, one was ill, and two had moved out of the diocese, while the last was unavoidably absent. However we were strongly supported by the presence of many of the women ordained in the diocese since that momentous first ordination and we rejoiced in the fact that the new Dean of the cathedral, who presided at the Eucharist, was one of the original nine ordained in 1997.

Our bishop relinquished his normal position to act as deacon to the women who led the service and our preacher was an old friend from the campaigning days of the mid 1990s, who gave us a sermon by turns thoughtful, inspiring and amusing. The cathedral choir sang sublimely as always and the proceedings were filmed by BBC Wales who had also covered the service twenty years ago. As we met up with old friends after the service and exchanged reminiscences, it was hard to believe so many years had passed.

The following day I led the service at the same church where I had celebrated Holy Communion for the first time 20 years before and, thankfully, still with many of the same faces in the congregation. Now, as I reflect on the past weekend and the twenty years since the events it commemorated, I am filled with gratitude for the people I have known, the work I have been enabled to do and the deep enjoyment and satisfaction it has given me. And as I look forward to the consecration next week of the first woman to be elected bishop in the Church in Wales, I am filled with hope and encouragement for the future. Gratitude and hope – who could wish for more?


A memory of 20 years ago

Being welcomed by the Dean - one of us

Listening intently to the sermon

Celebrating the Eucharist together, led by the Dean - and yes, it's still the Christmas season.

The final procession - cathedrals love processions!

Together with our preacher, second from left

The Famous Four


31 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Perpetua & some great photos too! Thank you for posting as I challenged you to do so a few days ago on FB :-)

    As a long-standing advocate of the ordination of women as priests, I'm pleased that you were able to have this weekend of celebration. My only regret is not being able to be there & celebrate with you. Are you going to present at the consecration of the first female bishop in Yr Eglwys yng Nghymru?

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    1. Thanks, Ricky, glad you enjoyed it. The photos were taken by our Diocesan Director of Communications and shared with us all as well as with the media.
      It would have been lovely to have you there as it was a very special weekend. I think the Church in Wales decided to follow the example of the Church of England by marking the 20th anniversary publicly and formally. I would love to be at the consecration but all the Welsh cathedrals are small and the seats will be reserved for dignitaries and people from St Davids diocese.

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  2. Your joy springs from the page...a wonderful experience.

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    1. That's what people said about the photos of the original ordination, Helen. :) It really was a marvellous weekend and I'm glad to have part of it after an eventful 20 years.

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  3. Congratulations on still being happy about your ordination. Lovely pictures, especially the last one, you all look so full of joy.
    And a female Bishop for Wales next. They'll be allowing us to vote soon:-)

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    1. The last 20 years have had their ups and downs, Ray, but I've never stopped being grateful for the privilege of being ordained. I know that's true of my colleagues too and we were all so happy to be reunited for this celebration.
      I'm really glad Wales has elected a female Bishop to fill the first vacancy after the enabling legislation was passed. Support for women's ordination is very strong almost everywhere in Wales.

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  4. What a beautiful old church. I love seeing the women fufilling importand roles in the service too. :)

    Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks, Debra. Yes, the building is lovely and it stands on a spot which has been used for Christian worship for almost 1500 years. We have a good number of women clergy now and more are taking on senior roles every year.

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  5. I have been looking forward to this post - and the wait was well worth it! Your joy in the celebration comes off of the cold, white pages of the internet, Perpetua. Indeed "Gratitude and hope – who could wish for more?". These roads of change are not easy, but, they are always worth it; your smiles, beliefs, commitment, faith . . . and more all come through and give me hope in the future. Congratulations.

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Penny. I may be an errant blogger nowadays, but this weekend had to be committed to words while the memories were fresh. :) What is so encouraging is the way in which for the vast majority of people. in our churches and beyond, women's ordained ministry is now taken completely for granted. That really is a cause for celebration.

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  6. Absolutely wonderful, Perpetua. Such a joyful anniversary and I'm so glad you were able to celebrate such a meaningful occasion in your life as well as the life of the church. I sense a deep joy in the opportunity to review the memory of a special day twenty years ago, but also the hope of the future as women take bold steps in spiritual leadership within congregations around the world. I'm delighted to see your photos and hear a small portion of your story. I wish I knew more! I assume that the road to ordination was very meaningful in itself.

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    1. Thanks, Debra. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. It was a wonderful weekend of celebration and also a chance to look back and reflect on how far we have come in those 20 years. Back then I truly would not have imagined that we would now be looking forward eagerly to the consecration of the first female bishop in our small church (only 6 dioceses). We have so much to be thankful for. For me the road to ordination was long and winding and very unexpected. Perhaps I may try to chronicle it one day, since I can't just sit down with you to talk it over.

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  7. A wonderful anniversary Perpetua and congratulations to the famous four. As a fellow Christian I am so happy to see women doing God's work and your enjoyment shines through. Beautiful pictures, and I had to smile re the processions - what a lovely aisle to process through. Thank you for sharing your special day.

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    1. Thanks, Patricia. I very much enjoyed writing this post and am glad you enjoyed it too. It has been wonderful to see opportunities for women to minister opening up in the Anglican Church over the past 40 years, something I could not have imagined when I was confirmed at the age of 30. It has been a blessing both to our congregations and to us who minister.

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  8. What a lovely post to read, and what an extraordinary anniversary to mark. Thanks for sharing the pictures of your special day with us!

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    1. Yes, it was a a very significant anniversary, Kristie, and I'm glad you enjoyed my account. The photos were taken by a diocesan official and shared with us all and it's lovely to have them as a souvenir of a very happy day.

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  9. I too have been looking forward to it and what joy this was!! Not only to see those eager and shining faces but also the sincere wish from the dioces to make this an important statement both for you and for the church in whole. As I have told you, we've had women ministers since 1958 and we no longer pay so much attention to it. There is no interest from our dioces, not mine any way, to help celebrate this kind of anniversary. I am so glad and I have taken part of your other posts on this with delight. So glad also that there will be a bishop coming up next!! We do need these moments when the world seem to be going quite mad. God bless you, Perpetua, sister in ministry, and happy anniversary!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Solveig. I love the thought that I have a Swedish sister in ministry. :) Yes, the Church in Wales with its six dioceses was determined to mark this significant anniversary, especially after the long struggle we had to enable women to be ordained to the priesthood. We only started ordaining women as deacons in 1980, so our history of women's ordination is much shorter than yours. I'm sure that by the time Wales has had women priests for almost 60 years we too won't be marking the anniversaries either. Even after only 20 years it has become so normal to have women priests that most people take the fact completely for granted and young people can't remember anything different. So it was good to have this celebration and reflect on how far we have come since 1997. :)

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    2. And I rejoyce with my welsh sister in ministry, Kathy!!!

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    3. English by birth, Welsh by long residence, Solveig. :)

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    4. Oh, goodness me!! I'll keep that in mind!!

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  10. Such a lovely post and such wonderful memories for you. Blessings as you continue to serve.

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie. It was good to capture this special weekend in print before it fades from my ageing memory. :) I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm still taking services regularly, but will be easing back in the summer when our two deacons are ordained priest.

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    1. It was an unforgettable weekend, Susan.

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  12. How marvellous to be such an important part of church history. Congratulations.

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    1. Thanks, BtoB. We didn't set out to make history. We just knew that this was what was right for the church and worked for it.

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  13. This is all just so very wonderful. I loved reading all about it. It truly is an honor for you to have been among the others that made church history. I belong to a church that will not ordain women, and I have made peace with that, but if I were in Wales, I wonder if I might have also embarked on the path of seeking ordination. I'm so incredibly proud to know you.

    I attended church over twenty years ago at St. Michael's in Aberystwyth on Pentecost Sunday. The BBC broadcast the service. I will never forget the experience. It remains one of my most precious memories. I was there visiting a friend who lived in Aberystwyth. It was her church.

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    1. Im so glad you enjoyed reading this, Sally. Yes, it was a huge privilege to be one of the first women to be ordained priest in Wales. What is even better is to see how, 20 years on from that historic day, women's ordained ministry is now taken completely for granted in all the parishes I'm familiar with.

      I remember you mentioning you stayed with a friend in Aberystwyth, but didn't know about the broadcast service. That must have been a very special experience.

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  14. Hari OM
    Sorry I missed this post at its broadcast time... was off gallivanting in India and Australia again! Congrats on the anniversary! YAM xx

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    1. Thanks, Yam. It was a marvellous service. What a wonderful reason to have missed my post, though. :) I hope you had a super trip.

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